Why I’m not a ‘Grammar Nazi’.
The beauty of language is its evolving nature.
My teenage son announced during his GCSE choice interview that he wants to drop English Literature. Quelle horreur! How could my child, an avid reader, son of an English graduate, hate studying literature so much? One word: Shakespeare! The language of Shakespeare is just so far removed from that of today that my 14-year-old has given up on it as ‘old-fashioned gobbledygook’. What he and others don’t realise is, that in the Elizabethan era, Shakespeare’s language was typical of the time. The people who went to see his plays understood exactly what the actors were saying. In four hundred years, his beloved Harry Potter, will likely be deemed old fashioned by the teenagers of the time!
Skip two hundred years to the Victorian era and Dickens was the latest sensation. My son and his peers look at his massive novels as unreadable; what he would come to understand – if he was inclined to listen to his mother’s wisdom – is that it is the language of the novel that he is struggling with but the stories are as enjoyable now as ever. In fact, Dickens was a publisher’s dream, with people waiting with bated breath for every chapter of his serialised sensations.
My point (hurrah!) is, that the people who fight against the evolution of language are wasting their time. It has and always will be organic. That’s why if you glanced at my phone you would see text speak and emojis in all my communication with my friends and family. Not to my boss or our family doctor I hasten to add! It exists and is widely understood; so, if someone sends me a funny message, gif or meme why wouldn’t I reply with a ‘rofl’ or a crying with laughter smiley face? My son communicates with friends this way but this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know the basic grammar rules and the correct homophones to use. He is still learning formal writing and knows it has its place. That is the key. If you know your their, there and they’re you have been taught well, lucky you! This doesn’t mean that you need to correct others in their mistaken usage. One of the most important things I learned to prepare me for parenthood and as an educator was how detrimental it is to interrupt a child when they are speaking, to correct their verb usage or vocabulary. How awful would you feel if you were cut off in mid-sentence to be corrected? The best way to encourage learning – is modelling the correct usage. If your child is telling a story: “we wented to the park and feeded the geeses” you just answer with the correct use “yes, we went to the park and fed the geese, wasn’t that fun?” This encourages them to keep telling those stories and they will pick up the correct usage along the way. That is why you will never see me correcting someone, whether in person or on a Facebook thread; only if I’m asked and preferably when I’m being paid!
‘Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.’